NEXT044 The Stories You Tell In Your Tribe

Posted on : 28-08-2011 | By : Lynn | In : Business, Communication

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Over the years much ado has been made about the groups of people we share our lives with and many books have been written with one of my favorites being “Tribes” by Seth Godin. I also like what Max DePree has to say about tribes in his book, “Leadership as an Art”.In the chapter, “Tribal Storytelling”, Max talks about “the penalty for failing to listen to (the tribal storytelling of your “tribe” or company) is to lose one’s history, one’s historical context, one’s binding values” and that “without the continuity brought by custom, any group of people will begin to forget who they are”.

We are really fortunate in our family to have several really good storytellers amongst us.  There are several stories that my parents will tell again and again of their growing up years (or of  my brothers and me) that I have never grown tired of hearing. Because we all live pretty far apart (except for one brother who is residing in Texas for a short while) when we get together the first thing we do is lapse into storytelling as a way to remind ourselves where we came from and what we share with each other.  There is one story I love of my brother when he was 9 and I was 11. My parents had been divorced for just a short while and my mom, brother and I had moved to a house out in the country.  It was the late sixties and so many things were changing fast. Dad was preparing to go to Viet Nam as a fighter pilot and mom was trying her wings at being a self-realized woman for the first time in her life.  One afternoon in particular, my mom, her friend and my brother and I along with our three shepherds were returning from the park.  My brother was sitting in the way back of our Buick station wagon (avocado green of course!) with the dogs. He was one of those skinny kids who was all feet, knees and elbows and because we both have huge heads with big brown eyes, all you could see amongst the flying fur of the dogs was his knobby knees and big blonde head.  At some point the song du jour came on, “I am woman” by Helen Reddy.  I think my brother had experienced just about enough changes in my mom with her wearing blue jean jackets instead of skirts and trying to smoke cigarettes (I say trying because she’s always been a health nut and she sure didn’t seem to know how to smoke a cigarette like the other adults!).  Anyway,  all of a sudden my brother belted out in his little soprano–cracking–alto voice, “I am man” where of course Helen sings, “I am woman” and we all cracked up laughing.  It was funny and poignant and marked a certain time of change in all our lives.

When I get together with friends who I many not have seen in a while, such as boarding school mates, we also swap stories of adventures and misadventures we experienced together way back when.  Everyone has moved all around the world, have families and different lives from that time but after a short time of telling stories we are reminded about the binding history that we share.  One group of friends who I’ve known for 20+ years always tells the story of the weekend the men who had gone away for a camping trip survived a huge tornado and how one of them took the time to cook up some bacon in the middle of all hell breaking lose.  Same with another group of close friends who my husband and I have traveled with and gone on many scuba diving adventures together.  Some of my favorite images conjured when swapping stories with that group is the one of all 9 of us renting mopeds to take a ride around the island of Cozumel.  We all felt so cool wearing our helmets and riding like the wind on our mopeds around the island.  We even had magical moments like when we stopped at Bob’s Marley Bar

Storytelling in song, dance and word

(before the hurricane that shredded it to pieces so that they rebuilt it) and they had exactly 9 hammocks for all of us to lounge in as we drank beer and listened to reggae.   Our friend Tony dubbed our group, “Antonio’s Angels” even though there were two other men in our outfit!! We still laugh at how much fun we had and how slick we all thought we were even though pretty much everyone who can afford transportation on the island drives a moped!

So next time you are with your tribe or one of the groups of people you would call a tribe, listen to what stories are being told and pay attention to the ones that are familiar.  There’s more being told then just a story.


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